Monday, 12 January 2015
At the end of last week the BBC was reporting that only 80.7% of patients in Accident and Emergency at the Royal Berkshire Hospital were being seen with the government bench-mark waiting time of 4 hours.
This compared to the national target of 95% and a current average in English hospitals of 86.7%.
However, the RBH is not alone in it's struggles, as A&E waits across England are at their worst level for a decade.
So what is causing this nation-wide problem?
1. Lack of staff
The government has been known for some time that A&E units are struggling to recruit and retain staff.
The College of Emergency Medicines says each unit should have 10 consultants with the largest trusts needing up to 16. But the average number stands at just over seven. There are also shortages of A&E trained nurses. Evidence is emerging of staff moving abroad.
2. The 111 Helpline
The coalition government dumped the successful NHS Direct Helpline and replaced with the more troubled 111 line which has fewer clinically trained staff advising callers. This, it is believed, has led to more A&E referrals.
3. GP access more restricted
A recent national survey said that the proportion of patients saying it was not east to get through to their GP had jumped from 18% to 24% in two years. Some GPs also advise patients to go to A&E for treatment.
As we know in Reading, there are continuing threats to sustainable GP services.
4. Cuts to social care
Hospitals are struggling to discharge patients as the councils care services have been cut and the number of older people getting help get by 29% over the last years - at a time of an ever older population many living with disabilities longer. They, too, are ending up in A&E. Two-thirds of emergency admissions are over 65 years old.
The government must not betray NHS patients or hard-working staff in the RBH A&E Department, by allowing this to continue. It's their choice.
Thursday, 1 January 2015
May I wish the people of Reading a Happy New Year!
Looking forward to 2015 I have three wishes:
Firstly, that there is a big turn-out of voters on Thursday 7 May for the next General Election. We often hear voices critical of our politicians - in my opinion sometimes fairly, sometimes not - but our democracy and freedoms are vital to what makes this country great and must not be taken for granted. In other countries we see people fight to have the right to vote and sometimes queue for hours to exercise that right, so let's reverse the falling trend and use this privilege: it does not matter who you choose to vote for, just vote!
Secondly, I hope that Reading FC can yet still fight their way through to the Championship Play-Offs and make it third time lucky by winning promotion at Wembley on 25 May. We have enjoyed our record breaking promotions of the past as well as the heartache of play-off losses - I will never forget the misery of that Bolton game in 1995 - but it is not too late for new manager Steve Clarke to put a run together which could take us all the way to that big pay day game on Bank Holiday Monday at the end of May.
Third and finally, I hope that by this time next year the number of people In Reading relying on the town's food banks to survive a very modest form of living has vastly diminished. The fact that these organisations exist at all in the 21st century in a relatively prosperous town in one of the best well off parts of one of the richest economies in the world is a stain on our society. For now please keeping giving food donations, but do what you can to eradicate their very need to be.
May the New Year also make your wishes come true too!
Mayor of Reading